The moment of awakening itself – I will never forget that day, almost exactly 9 years ago. It was so important then, the new birth, the ultimate fulfillment I was searching for many years… I was in bliss for several months after, while being mentally aware that it was just a beginning.
After a while, when more and more deepening started to happen, the moment itself started to look unimportant, it was already in the past, and yet, the story probably still worth telling. My favorite spiritual teacher Adyashanti often says that in the moment of awakening you “zip through from A to Z” as if by magic, and after you have to walk all the alphabet slowly.
I came to awakening through classical Buddhism, and particularly, Zen Buddhism, but even before that, I practiced meditation and self-inquiry for many years. I know some teachers say “stop all the practices”, “just relax”, “just be”. Maybe there is something in it for other people, but it simply didn’t work for me, even though now I look like the most chilled and relaxed person on the Earth! Then, I was very unhappy and very driven.
I thought I had many valid reasons to be very unhappy with the world and myself, being born into a wrong family, in a wrong country, in a wrong time, in a wrong body – the usual!
The year before awakening has happened I spent in a formal Zen environment in Zen monasteries and centers. There was a lot of meditation, a lot of retreats and a lot of emotional stuff coming out. There were many energetic openings, mystical experiences, mind-blowing insights, some very powerful, and yet… they would come and go, and unhappiness, that deep-sitting, ever-present dissatisfaction would stay.
Awakening was different, the experience itself was very simple, but immediately, it became clear that this is something very real and profound.
I was meditating on koan “Mu”* in Zen Center of Los Angeles (ZCLA). I sat next to a window and there was a cricket outside the window. And it was making those annoying cricket sounds – “trrr, trrr”… I could also hear car alarms, helicopters, police alarms, all sorts of sounds – LA is definitely not a quiet and tranquil place!
I was getting annoyed (as many times before) with all that cacophony, and suddenly I remembered the words of Adyashanti describing his awakening. He was also sitting and meditating and he heard a bird song outside. And he had the same thought, “who is hearing this bird”?
… and who is hearing this cricket (and the rest)?
I was already having a very clear focus, some kind of inner spaciousness that comes from meditation, and not that many thoughts (koan “Mu” has already wiped out the majority of my inner drama). Suddenly, everything came into even more sharp focus, like my whole “inner word” had collapsed into a single still point. And from this single point, everything unfolded into this deathless space, space of no beginning and no end.
It sounds paradoxical, but it was so natural, so self-evident. Death, beginnings, ends – it all just had not the slightest relevance, not a shred of meaning! It is totally endless, eternal, deathless, ageless, genderless, there is nothing of any of these descriptions that we use!
And there wasn’t any ME, no single person, no at all, not a tiny little one, zippo! NONE! There is nothing there, just boundless purity, shining, vibrating, pulsing, existing and not existing at the same time. And it was so totally fine, simple, natural, habitual, so FAMILIAR, so much HOME that I thought I never had…
And it was so liberating, to see this world, space without “me”, all that strive – to become, to make something of myself, to prove something, even to survive by any means – was wiped out, in a moment, it wasn’t relevant at all. And it was so liberating!
And SO real. Mountain real. Totally you. Totally here. You just know it beyond any doubt. Not a vision, experience? – yes and no, because you are the place where experiences are happening and … no more so important.
I came back into a normal habitual world, and everything was the same, cricket singing song, LA going on with all its business, and Space was still here, calmly and simply present despite the bewilderment of the mind.
The unsolvable dilemma of “Mu” became blatantly clear. I knew the answer, my Zen teacher of that time has accepted it. There were few more clarifying “koans”, but my interest in classical Zen started to diminish.
There was simply no more energy in the seeking and no interest in pursuing some kind of “teacher training” or anything of this sort. I left the center, immensely grateful, completely blissed out and went on to walk all that way from A to Z…
Don’t really know which letter of the alphabet I am currently on, I’ve been to so many places since. Spent more than a year in a silent retreat just floating in that marvelous silence, soaking its crystallin joy, sensing its immeasurable depth, exploring, feeling, perceiving the formless dimensions of Eternity… until something from inside was kicking me out to play in the world again.
So, playing my part now, learning how to function in this childishly deluded society so my own words and actions don’t make me nauseous, and yet, somehow being at least superficially “civil” so I could “make a living”.
Sometimes it is fun, sometimes not so. The Silence is always here as a refuge, and revealing more and more of its own dimensions as time goes by… And I still have to learn those letters, still have to learn how to live and express through this very limited existence, because, for some strange reason, IT WANTS to be in this very form, and it LOVES this very deluded crazy world!
*Koan is a puzzle that can not be solved logically. Often it takes the form of a short conversation between Zen master and a student. Famous koan “Mu” used at the beginning of Zen practice is very short:
The trick here is that according to Buddhist teaching, all creatures have the Buddha-nature, or they ARE the Buddha-nature (Divine Consciousness, Great Emptiness, God, etc.), so why the teacher answers “no”? There are many commentaries and “teisho” (Dhamma talks) about koan “Mu”, they can be found freely on the Net.
My personal hint – start contemplation on the logical constructs “have”/”have not” and “is/is not” in relation to real events and occurrences in your life and your personal experiences. How things occur in reality and how we make judgments about something assigning “have” or “is”?